Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weekly Planning Sessions

In this article from the Quo Vadis blog, they talk about the importance of weekly planning sessions.  One of the shifts I have made as of late is to not do my weekly recap and planning for the next week at the same time.

At the end of each week I have to complete a timesheet for my consulting work for approval and review.  It's the process of completing that timesheet where I perform my weekly recap.  I gather the information from my daily logs, capture my time and activities, and submit the accomplishments for the previous week.  During that recap, when I find something that needs to be moved into the next week I make a note of it BUT I do not try to plan for it right then. 

Once all the recap work is done and the timesheet is completed, I make sure I have the notes for work to move forward captured well and then I put things away for Monday.  I do my weekly planning on Monday morning when I am fresh from the weekend.  This two pronged approach has allowed me to appreciate my successes more thoroughly as well as provided focus and direction for my weekly planning.  How about you?  Are you following the traditional methods or do you have your own unique twist? 

photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

A Day in the Life of my Paper Journal

My current notebook

My job has placed some interesting technological limitations on my traditional productivity methods, so in response I have made the transition back to pen and paper for keeping my activity records of my daily work.  You would think that for someone as digitally focused as I this would be a significant step backwards but surprisingly, especially to me, this has not been the case.  There are a few habits I have engaged that I will pass along in the hopes they may assist you as well.

The Daily Log Page

Each day of my journal begins with a daily log page.  This page includes:

- Date
- Arrival time at work
- Page number

From this point, each major topic or project I work on during the day is logged as a single line item.  By the end of the day I have a list of the major accomplishments for the day as well as my start and end times (these are critical when billing for time.)

The Journaling Process

As I move through the day all my notes and observations about my projects are logged in the journal.  Each page receives a page number and the date for easy reference later on.  This is where the first major change in my process happened and it has made all the difference in the world for me.

Permission to be verbose

I grew up in the workplace taking short, succinct notes.  Brevity and accuracy were next to perfection in my mind.  What I discovered though is there was an exceptional amount of effort I was having to put out trimming down my notes.  For what purpose?  They're my notes.  No one else is going to be reading them.  That's when the lightbulb went on and I stopped writing notes FOR myself and started writing them TO myself.  You see, since they are for reference then assumption is I would not have complete recall of the topic at hand and would be looking for more detailed information.  Rather than "summing up" a topic I started writing to explain it to myself as if it were something new. 

Losing the self consciousness of writing a narrative to myself freed my mind to capture all the detail I might need and not feel bad about it.  Where before if the notes on a topic went on for more than a page I would be quick to edit and trim back, now I am writing 10-20 pages of notes a day.  It may seem excessive but in every instance where I have needed to know something I can now go back and find exactly what I need without consternation or doubt.

Permission for white space

I'm the first to admit I have a problem when it comes to notebooks and pens.  I love them.  The look, the feel, sometimes even the smell of the paper can put a silly grin on my face.  But with that came a dilemma.  I purchase these wonderful notebooks but then would hesitate to write in them for fear what I was writing "wasn't good enough" for the notebook.  I know, right?  Sounds ridiculous, but it's true (and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.) 

The other major change was to give myself "permission" to write in these wonderful notebooks.  Now I don't hesitate to turn the page when a page is half full if that will help me keep my thoughts in order.  I sketch, I doodle, I diagram, but all with the objective in mind.  When I finally accepted these journals were for me and not for public consumption, a significant weight was lifted.

The question comes in when we start thinking about collaboration.  Turning analog to digital raises the specter of "aren't you doing double work?  Can't you just capture it digitally first?" Sure I could, but I don't want to.  My notebook has become my rough draft for digital; the starting place of the ideas and words before they are polished and sterilized by Ariel and Calibri fonts.

Not for everyone

The analog world is not for everyone.  If you have poor handwriting (as far too many people do) you may be best served typing.  If you have challenges focusing or other issues, digital may be your bastion of sanity.  But give analog note taking a try.  No one says you have to stick with it, but who knows, you might just like it.

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Using Google Wallet for more than online

I'll admit, I'm an avid Google Wallet fan.  I like the interface and functionality; heck I even carry a Google Wallet card in my wallet.

Papa Johns has jumped on the Google Wallet bandwagon by allowing you to pay for your pizza with your Google Wallet account. Hmmm...I'm thinking anchovies...

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Making Google Keep more useful on Android

If you're a Google Keep user on Android, you may be wishing there was an easier way to add a new note into Keep without having to either open the app or use one of Google's two widgets (3x1 and 3x2 size?  Really?) to tie up precious desktop space.  If you also use Nova Launcher here's a trick to save some space and make things faster.

Screenshot of Google Keep activities in Nova Launcher

From the page on your launcher where you want to add a shortcut, bring up the Nova menu and select Shortcuts > Activities.

Scroll down until you find the Keep section then expand it to show all the various activities that can be done.  Select "activities.EditorActivity" from the list and you'll now have a shortcut on your home page that immediately launches into a new note with just a tap.  No big widget, no extra memory use.  It's just that easy.

Clutter with a limited future

 Put your clutter in a box with an expiration date. 

I do like the idea of clutter having a limited lifespan.  I'll be trying this tip myself when it comes to the shopping receipts that seem to pile up on my dresser at home.  Anything that is "perishable" when it comes to value should fall into this type of mix.

 Photo from Wikimedia 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dealing with a lousy website

I don't know about you but I get the majority of my news and information from the Internet on my smartphone.  Now is it too much to ask for our local newspaper to have a website even remotely designed for mobile device consumption?  Not ours.  It's unusable, in a nutshell.  To paraphase the movie, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
What did I do?  I used IFTTT, Pocket, and the RSS feed from the newspaper website to create my own newspaper so to speak.  Now I have a rule in IFTTT that monitors the local news RSS feed from the site and creates a new article in Pocket each time something is added.  Pocket does an excellent job cleaning up the content to make things much easier to read.
Hey Mercury...if you want me to see your ads...fix your website.  Until then I'll be reading the ad-free version that's in my Pocket.


I've been running this configuration for more than a week now and I don't think I'd go back to their website even if they fixed it.  The combination of Pocket's clean interface plus Text To Speech has made this a winning combination for my commute to and from work.  I can go from article to article and listen to the newspaper being read to me rather than flipping through poorly designed ads and page layout clutter.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Working Minimally

Over the past month I have made a concerted effort to move to a mobile centric approach for personal productivity.  This was partially incited through work requirements as well as a desire to leverage my Android devices more fully.

One of the biggest steps towards making this happen was the addition of my Targus K810 Bluetooth keyboard.  Supporting three Bluetooth channels on one keyboard, all accessible through hotkey, and adding a comfortable, backlit keyboard in a compact and portable format has made this a linchpin in my mobile setup.

If you're considering making a strong move into mobile productivity or just want to get more from your devices, I suggest looking into a Bluetooth keyboard to accomplish more than two thumbs can handle.